LACMA Hires Closely Watched Curator Diana Nawi for Contemporary Art Department

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has hired Diana Nawi as a curator of contemporary art, beginning this month.

Nawi, who has worked independently for several years, has organized several acclaimed US biennials in the past five years, including the 2023 edition of Made in L.A. at the Hammer Museum (with Pablo José Ramirez) and 2022’s Prospect.5 in New Orleans (with Naima J. Keith). She has also curated solo exhibitions for artists such as Mark Bradford, Michael Rakowitz, Adler Guerrier, Haroon Mirza, John Akomfrah, and Shana Lukter.

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Nawi has previously held curatorial positions at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. More recently, she has worked as a guest curator and curatorial adviser for the Contemporary Austin, as well as a serving as a curatorial consultant for the collection of Orange Barrel Media, founded by ARTnews Top 200 Collector Pete Scantland. Earlier this year, she organized the inaugural exhibition of the Olivia Foundation in Mexico City.

In an email to ARTnews, Nawi said, “I first visited LACMA as an undergrad at UCLA and the evolution of the museum under [director] Michael Govan’s leadership has offered several models that I have looked to throughout my career for how we might keep museums relevant, accessible, and adaptable. On a personal level, exhibitions at LACMA have had a profound impact on my thinking.”

Nawi’s appointment comes as LACMA prepares to open a new building that will present works from across centuries of art history side by side. (Construction for the Peter Zumthor–designed building, now called the David Geffen Galleries, is scheduled to be completed later this year.) Nawi joins Rita Gonzalez, the head of the contemporary art department, and assistant curator Dyhandra Lawson, as well as two curatorial assistants.

“I’m excited in particular to work alongside Rita Gonzalez, who has consistently been doing the work of writing and rewriting art histories in ways that have changed the terms of our field,” Nawi said. “Additionally, this is the first opportunity I’ve had to situate contemporary conversations and artworks within a larger, longer trajectory of transnational, indigenous, diasporic, and local art and culture—it’s an interesting new context for me.”

In a statement, Gonzalez said, “Diana is known for her deep knowledge and connection to artists in Southern California as well as her impressive history of organizing international biennials, public art projects, and museum exhibitions. She will join Dyhandra Lawson and I in overseeing a wide-ranging and constantly growing collection of contemporary art and strengthening its presence throughout LACMA’s campus.”


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